Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, the diamond’s first European owner, called it “un beau violet”—perhaps the only possible...



An amusing, if gaga, history of the world’s most prized blue stone, from a specialist in the biography of luxury.

Fowler (The Way She Looks Tonight, 1996) treats the story of the Hope Diamond as if it were a real bodice-ripper, describing the gem as “Nature’s absolute kernel of energy and beauty, of her striving, driving, pounding life-force.” And the stone delivers. Fowler’s heroine was born in southern India, with enough boron in its chemistry to give it a gorgeous violet-blue coloration. Fowler imagines the stone first as the third eye in a statue of Siva, a religious transporter, glorious and holy. But it began on the slippery slope to degradation and written history when a French trader and adventurer bought it and in, turn, sold it to King Louis XIV. Since there’s precious little to say about the stone beyond describing its settings and the ways it has been displayed, Fowler provides biographies of its owners, making them as racy as possible. From the French royal family the diamond passed, via a robbery during the Revolution, into the tawdry precincts of the Hopes, a wealthy English banking family—whose subsequent fall from financial grace bestowed upon the newly christened Hope Diamond the legend of the stone’s curse—and thence to the King of Diamonds, jeweler Harry Winston of New York, who gave the stone to the Smithsonian. Fowler manages to impart plenty of information about the diamond, but her weakness for the fabulous sweeps all before it. She may be the only writer who could make a geologic process sound like a Hamptons soirée, as a volcano unleashes the stone with “the fizz and roar of a million champagne corks.”

Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, the diamond’s first European owner, called it “un beau violet”—perhaps the only possible description more purple than Fowler’s prose.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-345-44486-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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